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United Airlines Coronavirus Flight Change and Cancelation

Last updated: January 12,2023
Originally Published: July 09,2020
by Rosen Valchev

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In an effort to avoid refunding customers United redefined the term “cancelation”

United Airlines experienced a major decrease in business when the COVID-19 pandemic spread. The airline had to cancel and reschedule the majority of its flights. United passengers naturally wanted to do the same. Discover how to handle your United Airlines Coronavirus flight change and cancelation even when the airline is giving you a hard time.

However, many people reported they had a hard time changing and canceling their United’s flight. Also, they had trouble getting a refund from United even when they were supposed to.

United Airlines was one of the first airlines to support its unfavorable situation with numbers. The Airline posted $2.1 billion in losses for the first quarter of 2020. United opted for $4.5 billion in government loans on top of the $5 billion the airline has already received.

Nevertheless, the horrific financial situation of United doesn’t excuse their behavior. Many think that United is the most restrictive out of the four big U.S. airlines. And that is not justified when you consider other airlines are in the exact same position.

1. United Redefines Flight Cancelations and Changes

It is no secret that the Coronavirus devastated the airline industry. For that reason, airlines are trying to keep the money they already charged at all costs. But United was able to reach a whole new level at that.

In an effort to avoid refunding customers United redefined the term “cancelation”.

The Department of Transportation(DOT) clearly states that an airline must provide customers with a financial refund in two cases.

First, when an airline cancels a flight. Second when the airline significantly delays your flight. Unfortunately, DOT hasn’t specified a particular time frame for “significant delay”. And United took advantage of that fact.

Previously for more than 2 hours delay, you could get a refund. United have now extended this to 6 hours. Moreover, they officially claim that if they remove a flight from their schedule that is not considered a cancelation.

Here is what United said:

“A cancellation is not based on flight number or tail number, but on the ability to provide transportation to our customer without significant delay.”


United made another ridiculous policy change in the beginning of March. If United can rebook you to fly within the next 25 hours after your flight “removal”, you were not entitled to a refund.

United have been constantly changing their policy ever since. For up to date information make sure you visit United’s website or better, contact them directly.

However, the main point of emphasis still remains. If United canceled your flight or significantly delayed it, you are entitled to a financial refund by LAW. It doesn’t matter whether United or their agents claim the opposite.

If you want to have a financial refund you CAN have it. Airlines can’t force you to take a voucher or credit. But if you do take any other form of refund you LOSE your right to get a financial reimbursement. Airlines know that. Hence the reason they are trying to sneak travel vouchers and credits to people at any cost.

Also, you can receive a refund if you cancel your trip in 24 hours from booking, if you receive military orders or if your travel companion passes away before the flight.

Still, if the airline is giving you a hard time it is good to know what you can do to have a maximum chance of getting a refund. To read more about the whole process and how you can file a formal complaint with DOT you can read our post on handling coronavirus flight cancelations.

2. United Coronavirus Fee Waiver For Changed and Cancelled Flights

After all, like the rest of the airlines, United had to abide by government rules and amend its policy to provide Coronavirus flight change and cancelation aid.

Also, because United realized their reputation suffered severely from reasons…well we described it above, they had to take radical action.

On Sunday, Aug. 30 United Airlines announced that change and cancellation fees will be waived on standard, economy, and premium tickets for domestic travel.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are free of change fees as well. You shouldn’t worry even after the pandemic.

The best? This change is permanent for those tickets.

If your ticket was issued on or before March 2, 2020, and you were set to travel between March 2, 2020, and Dec 31, 2020, you can now cancel or change your flight without a cancelation fee.

Despite that, if you cancel the flight you are not entitled to a financial refund. Instead, you get a travel credit in the full amount of the original cost of your ticket.

The good news is United gives plenty of time to complete your next trip. You have 24 months to use the amount of that credit toward a future United Airlines flight.

For newly booked flights United are more flexible. If you make a new booking before June 30, 2020, they give you 12 months to cancel or change your flight free of charge.

United are also extending the validity of their electronic certificates. All currently active certificates, as well as new ones, now have a 24 months expiration from their issue date.

Award tickets, of course, are honored in United’s Coronavirus fee waiver as well. For all Award flights departing before June 30, 2020, you can have a free cancelation. Your points will be redeposited into your account.

The same will happen for any Award flight taking place between June 30, 2020, and December 31, 2020, if it is canceled at least 30 days prior to departure. Anyways if you don’t qualify for United Coronavirus fee waivers here are the usual fees that they charge

United Award Flights Change and Cancelation Fees

United has redeposit fees if you cancel an Award Flight just like most airlines. The usual price you have to pay is $125 if you cancel or change your flight within 60 days or fewer from departure and $75 if you do it 61 days or more from departure.

However, that doesn’t apply for United MileagePlus Premier members. United has a 4 tier elite status program. If you are a general member you will have to pay the fees above.  Here are the change and cancelation fees you would have to pay if you qualify for United Premier elite status.


After you cancel your United Award flight and pay any applicable fees, your miles will be redeposited into your MilagePlus account shortly. Usually in 24 hours. You can change or cancel your Award Flight on United’s website directly.

An interesting fact is that United is one of the very few airlines that will redeposit your miles if you skip your flight. That’s right. If you forget to change or cancel and don’t show up for a flight there is an option to get your points back.

You would have to pay a $125 fee regardless of your status to do that. However, for more expensive award tickets that option could be a bargain.

Also if you are a regular traveler it may be worth checking some of these airline card offers by United and other big-name airlines.

Read More: Why I love United Frequent Flyer vs Delta or American

United Paid Tickets Change and Cancelation Fee

United Airlines have 3 main fair types. The Basic Economy is the airlines’ lowest-cost fare. You can’t change or cancel it even against a fee. Of course, refundable tickets have no cancelation or change fees.

Nevertheless, refundable tickets could be significantly more expensive. If you simply compared the prices to non-refundable you can see that the ticket value often goes up 3 to 4 times.

That is the reason the vast number of tickets are non-refundable. For these tickets, there are solid cancelation fees. Domestic flights have a flat $200 cancelation fee. For international fares, the cost is between $200 and $400.

United also gives its passengers the opportunity to make same-day changes for both awards and paid tickets. This option lets people choose another flight for the same destination departing earlier or later the same day.

Unfortunately, if you have an award ticket you can change it only if there is another flight of the same fare class. Same-day flight changes have $75 fee. However, United waive this fee for Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K.

United Tickets Booked with Credit Points Change and Cancelation

United Coronavirus fee waiver policy also covers tickets booked with credit points. For those tickets that don’t fall under this policy, there is a change and cancelation fee. It is the same as for the paid tickets. All other rules for paid tickets explained above apply as well.

If you booked through  Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal or Amex Travel you can cancel your United ticket directly on United’s website. The instructions on how to do that are pretty straightforward.


However, if you have any troubles you can access the full instructions page with here. There is a slideshow on how to do it page by page. If you used another travel portal like Citi ThankYou you should contact your bank to cancel the flight.

The same goes if you booked your flight through another third-party like a travel agent or an online travel agency. Your first point of contact should be in them.

The good news is most online travel agencies like Kayak or Expedia have aligned their policies with those of the airlines. Still, there may be an additional cancelation fee of $25 or more if you cancel through a third party.

It is important to know that when you cancel or change paid United flight even one booked with credit points you won’t get a financial refund or your credit points back. You will receive reimbursement from United in the form of a travel voucher to use towards future United flights.

How to get in touch with United?

The most straightforward approach to change or cancel your flight is to call United at their Reservations phone line at 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331).

The airline also promotes its app to users. Even though United’s app has pretty cool features like voice check-in it lacks one very important thing – a live customer service chat. United would certainly want to consider that.

People prefer live chat as a communications channel if available and some airlines like American Airlines have already adopted that feature. Although United has a chat feature on its refund policies page it is an automated one and not a live chat customer service.

On the contrary, you can easily reach United via social media channels. The company has Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and even Pinterest profile. United’s YouTube channel is also popular with over 50K subscribers. If you are unhappy you can always submit your complaint via social media.

Companies generally want to maintain a good reputation. So you have a high chance to resolve your issue if you post it on social media. Last but not least you can visit United’s Hub. It is a combination of a blog and a news website where you can get the latest updates from United.


Points Panda Travel Concierge

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